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What are your favorite places to visit in France and Why?

I am going to France and have done a lot of research but am having a hard time deciding on where to go... I am flying into Nice and out of Paris, but where to go inbetween? I have 2 weeks and plan on spending 5 nights in Paris with one of those days a trip to Versailles, and 3 nights in Nice. We would love to just stay on train routes and not rent a car. I would appreciate any feedback, suggestions, or even just a nice memory you had so I can make up my mind. :-)

Posted by
711 posts

Some of my favorite places are tough from a Train, but I'll mention them anyway, in case you decide to get a car for a few days. Dordogne - stayed in Sarlat, biked through countryside and visited Castles. Ate WAY too much Fois Gras. Detox followed. Provence - Car STRONGLY recommended. Stayed in Rousillion, drove to tons of tiny villages. This IS rural France, and is absolutely worth seeing. Pont Du Gard - Excellent Roman Aquaduct that makes a spectacular picnic day. Load up on supplies from the market in whatever town you're in (Arles in our case), then head to the Pont. Great day. Burgundy - stayed in Beaune, rented bikes, and traveled the bike path through many little villages and vineyards. Picnicked on a hilltop overlooking the Cotes d'Or and drank tons of World Class wine. Pretty much our best day in EUROPE (not just France).
Friends have since repeated our day here (more or less) and had an absolute blast. It's all that they talk about from their trip to France. Alsace - stayed in Colmar. Experience a bit of Franco-German life and cuisine (and beer). Visit the Unterlinden, wander the streets and canals of the "little venice".

Posted by
1353 posts

Colleen, my favorite places in France are all in the countryside which really is best by car. On a few trips throughout Europe France is the one place we DID rent a car (but I don't recommend picking up or dropping off in Paris). My very favorite place in France is Mont St. Michel (seeing the tide come in is a must though). The only other areas in the countryside I've been to so far are the Loire Valley, Normandy and Burgundy which were all awesome! Really what I'm trying to say is that my favorite memories of France have involved driving through small villages, and just experiencing the French countryside

Posted by
3031 posts

I've only traveled in France by train so maybe I can give you some suggestions! On the other hand, my input may be silly because I've loved every place I've been to in France so far. By train, coastal Provence is easy. I loved Cassis (small town next to Marsielle) although due to the difficulty of getting to the train station from town I would only spend at least 2 nights there relaxing as opposed to say, a day trip. I really like Marsielle too but it's not for everyone. Easy to get to by train, though! Also nearby is Aix-en-Provence which is easily worth at least a night if not two in my opinion. Unique art museum, great strolling. The nice thing is all these places are within 30-minute train rides of each other but are all very, very different. Alsace is great too although if you're going by train, you're better off sticking to the bigger cities. I love Strasbourg (a lot of people here seem to think it 'ho-hum' though), and I've heard Colmar is fantastic. Those are easy high speed journeys from Paris and close to each other as well. But you'll miss out on the wine route and some of the more charming small villages without a car, unless you take a tour from one of the cities. Since you're flying into Nice and out of Paris, I would certainly recommend making your way by train towards Paris as a very nice trip, stopping at the places I mentioned above. Like I said - they're all very different!

Posted by
1296 posts

Some of my favorites, places I would return to, are: Giverny - Monet's home and garden and the village Bayeux - the town and the tapestry Chinon - the town Chenonceau and Villandry - chateaux Annecy - beautiful lake Vaison la Romaine - Medieval section Pont du Gard Lourmarin - Friday market Luberon hill towns - Gordes, Roussillon, Bonnieux Cassis - favorite beach town Cagnes sur Mer - Renoir's house and garden Cap Ferrat - Rothschild house and garden, walk around the peninsula
Paris - museums, gardens, cafes

Posted by
8675 posts

My #1 favorite is Paris, after that: Normandy Loire Valley Burgundy

Posted by
1986 posts

If I only had one more trip to france with limited time i would do St Tropez/Mediterranean coast, then via Dordogne /Carcassonne/Sarlat/Rocamador/ St Malo/Mont St Michel/Loire chateaux/Paris. I would try and squeeze in Pont Du Gard

Posted by
711 posts

Hi Colleen... My husband is a photographer and we love the small villages that are sometimes hard to get to by train, but here they are: 1. Burgundy... Montreal, Avallon, The Morvan forest, Noyer, Chateauneuf-en- Auxois, the Burgundy canal area, St. Julien de Civry.
.2. Aveyron..... Sauveterre en Rouerque, Belcastel, Rodez, Najac, Igurande . Other places we love are Collioure,and the whole area around Collioure and into Spain.

Posted by
3936 posts

I really enjoyed Strasbourg as well, even tho we arrived in the evening and left by about 1 pm the next day - it is def on my return list in the future...the half-timber houses, the cathedral...(the pastry and chocolate shops...lol)

Posted by
3031 posts

People here are listing a lot of great destinations, but you are on a pretty tight timeframe, which would matter in terms of your trip. Do you have a full 14 days on the ground, or is more like 12? I actually rescind my recommendation to go to Alsace, while it's lovely, it doesn't make sense if you're only going to have 4-6 days inbetween Nice and Paris. By train you'd have to go through Paris to get to Alsace - so it just doesn't make sense. Likewise the Dourdogne sounds fantastic but everything I've read says you really need a car to see it properly. Ditto for Brittany/Normandy unless you take a tour, but again it doesn't make sense based on your route to even go that far away, you'll just be spending a lot of time in transit. I'd basically look at a train route from Nice to Paris and then do research on the places along the way or very nearby to that route to decide the best use of your time.

Posted by
13540 posts

Colleen, Ordinarily, you would go back to Paris coming from the south to get to Alsace, say Strasbourg. But, since you're going to be in Nice, it still can be done. Go to Alsace. Take a train to Lyon, transfer in Lyon to Strasbourg on the TGV, it's under 4hrs. To get back to Paris, take the Strasbourg-Paris Est TGV. I think one of the departures is direct. You time it right it can be done. In 2009 I did Paris-Strasbourg as a day trip r/t.

Posted by
782 posts

I second Viason la Romaine, market day there is marvelous I recommend Villefranche sur Mer, quick bus or train ride form Nice. It is my favorite place in France. Public transportation is very easy from Villefranche. And Paris, is most beautiful. I love open air markets, I try to visit a different one every day. Fantastic people watching , great food for picnic lunches. Each market or market street has it's own personality, it is a way to see how real Parisiens live. I do more walking in Paris than anything else, walking down each side of the Seine at different times of the day is art in itself. The Rodin Museum is special because of it's outdoor area. There are also many small parks where locals eat their lunch, I joined in with my lunch from markets. If you are a shopper, Monoprix is a local reasonable department store. Some Monoprix's only have food, small salads meant for take out meals. They have a website, to find the ones closest to you. In my next life, I hope to be Pariesienne!!!! Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
3031 posts

Fred: Total train travel time from Nice to Strasbourg is over 8 hours, not 4. (Unless you meant just from Lyon?) Again, I really like Alsace in general but it is rather out-of-the-way for just a few days.

Posted by
69 posts

Wow, this is alot of great advice... I am closer to nailing down our itinerary. I am thinking Nice (3) to Aix-Provence(2) to Lyon(1) to Strasbourg(2) then onto Paris(5), I will have 13 days actually for touring, counting the 2 travel days. So 15 total. My husband is interested in WWII historical sites and has been to Normandy but wants to see different sites. I heard there is some good WWII sites in Lyon, and Strasbourg some. Unless Lyon doesn't have much and we can just go straight onto Strasbourg... also, does anyone have any suggestions for restaurants in these towns? I am looking for midrange in price except for one night in Nice where we will be spending our anniversary where I want to splurge. :-) Thanks to everyone for the great advice!

Posted by
3031 posts

In Aix I was on a tight budget so I don't know if you'd be interested in my recommendations, one of which would be a place that was basically a liquor store/bar but had amazing and cheap ratatouille and free olives and cheap pastis. I don't remember the name but I do remember the location if you're interested. In Strasbourg, Chez Yvonne is slightly higher than mid-range but not too pricey, and has some of the best traditional Alsacian food in a great atmosphere. It's a favorite with visiting celebs and politicians but big enough that I've never had trouble getting in for Lunch. I'd make a reservation for dinner, though. Cheap and delicious is the Flammkuchen/Tart d'Alsace at the Academie De Bier, and it's very atmospheric. If you decide to stop for lunch in Marsielle on your way from Nice to Aix, the couscous dishes at La Kahena at the Vieux Port are delicious.

Posted by
6 posts

Since your husband is interested in WWII sights in the Alsace-Lorraine area, you might consider a visit to the US Lorraine Cemetery. It has the largest number of US WWII dead. Go to the American Battlefield Monument Commission website for information on how to get there. I've seen many US cemeteries in Europe. They're all beautiful and memorable.

Posted by
13540 posts

Hi, I meant this: take a train from Nice or someplace in the south to Lyon as a way of not having to go back to Paris. From Lyon go to Strasbourg by the TGV.

Posted by
3031 posts

The Maginot line is not that far outside of Strasbourg, although I don't know how you'd access it without a car or a tour. I haven't been, but I saw the signs when driving back into Germany.